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Canada’s 14th mad cow found in Alta.

A six-year-old beef cow from an Alberta farm is Canada’s 14th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed Friday.

CFIA said in a release that this latest case shouldn’t affect exports of Canadian cattle or beef, though the cow was born well after Ottawa imposed its 1997 ban on the use of ruminant tissues in feed for ruminant livestock.

Ruminant-to-ruminant feeding has been blamed for the arrival of BSE in Canada, assuming a BSE-infected and rendered animal entered the cattle feed supply before the feed ban took effect.

As has been the case since the feed ban was implemented, no part of this animal’s carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems, CFIA said.

CFIA said in June, when a five-year-old B.C. dairy cow was confirmed as Canada’s 13th BSE case, that as the level of BSE in this country continues to decline, the “periodic detection of a small number of cases is fully expected and in line with the experiences of other countries.”

While the agency is now investigating possible sources of infection of the Alberta cow and didn’t offer any thoughts Friday on how that cow may have contracted the fatal brain-wasting disease, other than to say that “the age and location of the infected animal are consistent with previous cases detected in Canada.”

CFIA had said in June that Case 13 in B.C. was likely exposed to “a very low amount of infective material, probably during its first year of life.”

The Alberta cow’s birth farm, meanwhile, has been identified, CFIA said, and the agency is tracing the animal’s herdmates at its time of birth, as part of its investigation of where the cow might have picked up prions, the misfolded proteins that cause BSE, also known as mad cow disease.

Though it didn’t say where in Alberta the animal was found, the agency said the cow was spotted through Canada’s national BSE surveillance program, which it said has been “highly successful in demonstrating the low level of BSE in Canada.”

CFIA also pointed out that Canada remains classified as a “controlled risk” country for BSE, as recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and “accordingly, this case should not affect exports of Canadian cattle or beef.”

The latest Alberta case marks Canada’s 14th, not counting a BSE-positive animal found in Washington state in late 2003 that was traced back to Alberta and is usually credited to Canada. It also marks the 10th case of BSE to be found in Alberta. Three have been found in B.C. and one found in Manitoba.

Safeguards in Canadian beef processing — such as the removal from beef carcasses of all tissues known to harbour prions, and those tissues’ exclusion from use in food, feed or fertilizer — are used to protect both the Canadian cattle herd and beef consumers. BSE-infected beef has been linked to cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a related brain-wasting ailment in humans.

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